Cooking During the Holiday Season
Happy holidays. I mean that more than ever. This year is basically an extreme sport, and we all deserve participation trophies for making it this far. Not kidding!
The holidays are challenging almost any year, and for 2020, even more so. The time usually spent running around buying gifts, attending holiday parties, and fulfilling family obligations is now about trying to enjoy some level of normalcy, all while keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.
And while your holiday dinner table might be a little smaller this year, you don’t have to compromise on your holiday meal. Why should you? This is the year to eat your feelings and the holidays are a perfect time!
How to Stop Food Waste
This time of year, people often stock up on everything they love to eat. By stock up, I mean, overbuy. It happens for many reasons. Your guest list keeps changing. You haven’t finalized your dinner menu, but don’t want to be short on supplies either. There are many reasons.
Sometimes this extra food gets consumed. Sometimes, not so much. The other side of that equation is kitchen disasters. You tried a new recipe, but it was a fail. You made your famous cookies, but your baking soda expired. Things go wrong. It happens.
But Americans throw out 40% of the food we produce in this country, so anything we can do to fight food waste has a significant impact on our planet and our economy.
So let me begin with a few ways to fight it:
You’re probably going to be baking, so to start, make sure your baking powder and baking soda are still active. You can test your baking powder by adding a teaspoon of it to hot water. Baking powder is heat activated. If you see bubbles, it is good to go. Baking soda is activated by acid. Take a tablespoon of baking soda and add vinegar or lemon juice to it. If you see bubbles, it is good to go.
Any other baking supplies are harder to test, but you can assure yourself by watching my video on properly storing baking supplies. You will find everything you need to know about cocoa powder and chocolate chips to shortening and vanilla extract. I have quite a few videos on this topic, from how to properly stock your pantry to items like canned goods and other staples.
How to Store Food
Of course, not everything we love to eat can sit in the pantry for years. Fresh fruits and produce are particularly tricky and a massive contributor to the food waste issue.
Knowing how to properly store these items affects spoilage and contributes to flavor and texture. For example, never put those tomatoes in the refrigerator! It makes them mealy. They are much better at room temperature, even if you have to consume them faster. Cucumbers also do poorly in the fridge. For cukes, it’s just too cold. They will spoil more quickly there than on the counter.
Do not store potatoes in the fridge either. The cold converts their starches into sugars, drastically changing their composition and flavor. They should also be kept away from ethylene-producing produce. The gas can cause them to sprout. Potatoes are best stored in an open paper bag in a cool, dry place.
Ethylene is your friend and enemy. A frenemy! You can use it to ripen items faster, which means it can also spoil foods more quickly. Place an apple or a banana in a brown bag with avocados or peaches, and they will promptly ripen.
Another staple this time of year, celery, for its addition to soups, stuffings, and more, is best stored wrapped in tinfoil. Doing so will allow it to last for weeks! If it softens at all, soak it in some ice water.
I have many videos on how to properly store more items just like this on my YouTube channel.
Stay Home. Stay Safe.
With proper food storage, you can make fewer trips to the grocery store and get the most out of what you buy. This is great for your wallet and the planet! As we see a rise in cases, the less interaction with strangers, the better.
So stock up on your favorite eats! You know now how to make them last even longer. It is the perfect time to indulge, no matter the size of your holiday table.
Family Meal Time
It’s also a great time to get the whole family cooking. Cooking is healthier and cheaper than ordering out. You can use this time to learn new recipes, bump up those knife skills, and try out new techniques.
It is also a great time to get kids more involved with cooking. From kid-friendly recipes to necessary skills, you never know when you might need them, like during a pandemic.
If you are worried about keeping their interest, try my comic book cookbook series to get them started. Superheroes and food! What is not to love?
However, you end up spending this holiday season. I wish you a happy and safe one. You have the tools to level up your kitchen skills. Buy your favorite foods and have at it!
This month’s Biofriendly DIY is brought to you courtesy of Jerry James Stone. We’d like to thank Jerry for sharing his insight and providing a fun, informative contribution to Biofriendly Planet Magazine.
Author bio: As he puts it, Jerry James Stone is a food pornographer, full-time vegetarian, outspoken liberal, ex DoD & coder, who says hella too much. His posts are tasty, geeky, or just plain odd.